mixed media on cradled wood panel

12 x 16 x 1.5 inches

originally this was a series of ink drawings on found (and tinted) paper, all done as a group; it then occurred to me that they should be ganged up as a single image

villains; a gang; characters of the frontier; brigands of the hinterlands; culprits; thieves; outlaws; trespassers in every sense

drawing plus painting plus found paper plus collage plus wax monotypes plus colour-infused gel, all of it sealed with varnish

a great gift for the lover of westerns

“Lay not that flattering unction to your soul, That not your trespass but my madness speaks.”

~ William Shakespeare

“Alas, the vices of man, as horrifying as they are presumed to be, contain proof (if only in their infinite expansiveness!) of his bent for the infinite.”

~ Charles Baudelaire

“Virtue!–to be good and just–

Every heart, when sifted well,

Is a clot of warmer dust,

Mix’d with cunning sparks of hell.”

~ Alfred Tennyson

“There is a terrible garrulousness in most American writing, legacy of the old Frontier. ~ Gore Vidal

fitted with a wire hanger in back; ready to hang

perfect for a bedroom or an office or a den

shipped with care––with masonite or other board (please read my reviews)

everything from my store comes with an extra art surprise

Give yourself the gift of original, affordable art, and escape from the dreaming planet.



at this point, we are alarmed


my advice is don’t; mixed media, canvas board, 7 x 9.5 inches.


that was it, that was everything, we just ran out of time; mixed media, canvas board, 7 x 9.5 inches.

Etsy will soon raise the transaction fee on every sale from 3.5 to 5%. It’s getting a little corporate over there, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

cigar-tin stories ninety-two / / pictures came and broke your heart

I don’t know what to write about in this week’s Tinyletter.

I went to bed early last night because I was tired. And I would have slept in, too, but the Siamese started coughing and coughing and I thought, Well, that’s it.

I would write about the provincial election but it’s all about the parties just trying to scare everyone into not voting for the other guy. The government has been in forever and can hardly keep their eyes open at this point, it’s one little sneaky scandal after another, but they are very clever, too, and quite slick about things, especially when it comes to planting tiny tiny hopes and fears but in the end they know (and pray, I think) that they are going to crash and burn here. And the party that is supposed to win (by default, it seems) is run by a guy who reminds me of someone who might sell you tons of insurance and then not honour it, saying that it was you who was trying to hit that meteor and maybe the meteor will sue you if you’re not careful and yes, you always had that space rock in your head and fine, let’s see you prove otherwise in court. And then the third party seems a bit watery and somewhat reasonable but then the other two parties say, No way, they’re communists! and they’ll ruin everything and remember Rae Days? And people do remember Rae Days even though it was a jillion years ago and they still get crazy about it because it has a pretty catchy name.

I would write about summer but Sunday was the first day that I thought it was really here.

I would write about work but please. Yesterday it was 27 degrees Celsius in there. And the floors are still filthy. Today I’m dressed like an unemployed tennis pro. But I still have a good view from my window so they say we’ll be moving down into the basement soon.

And I would write about art but at this point I think I’m just making it for myself. I mean, yes, I still sell work and it makes me quite happy to see the different places it lands but there’s certainly no stable money from it, I’m always just counting how many months of studio rent I have left, and anyway these things I make come from images and stories and dreams and ideas that are like little rivers of thought that I follow who knows where and even I only half understand most of the time. And even this newsletter I just write for free. Some kind of weekly exercise in something.

So, yeah, this week I’m at a loss. Let me know if you think of anything.

Enjoy the rest of your week, everyone,

Draw thing, paint things, write things, make things.

p.s. If you run your election by trying to scare people, then you will get bad results (see: Brexit, Trump). Don’t listen to any of it; vote how you like.

Also, this is a version of my Tinyletter, which you can subscribe to here.

cigar-tin stories number eighty six / / after the whale

I make a painting called after the whale. It is very blue. Blue is a difficult colour to work with; like the sea or the sky, it tends to crowd out everything else. It is both overarching and subsuming at the same time. As for man-made things, blue contains a certain industriousness: things big or naval. But it also has a dreamscape quality, as in things imagined, out of reach, or middle-distance, there but not there. And obviously: rain, melancholy, absence. There is certainly no whale there, anymore.

What is there are the remains of two other paintings: one that serves as background, the other one torn into thin strips and then crowded and rearranged and worked through with blue.

Art is often expressed within the categories of argument or something decorative. Yet for me, an artwork is a memory, and either that memory has power or it doesn’t. These two paintings did what they could, for awhile, but ultimately failed to insinuate themselves, failed to convince. And here they get a new life. Becoming secret ingredients, for what that’s worth.

My favourite quotation about blue is about the ocean, and it comes from Werner Herzog: “What would an ocean be without a monster lurking in the dark? It would be like sleep without dreams.” This quote speaks to the fact that Werner is (a) obviously German and (b) obviously a maniac.

I make an ornamental art box, decorated with collage from vintage advertisements for toy soldiers. Appropriately, the box is metal––like a mini foot locker, in burnished steel. The collaged sides have a gloss varnish, smooth to the touch. You can see a little video about it here.

I love those vintage comic-book ads. The illustrations are absolutely over the top––always the battlefield is a crammed pandemic of frantic violence, its soldiers with the animating mindset of enraged professional wrestlers, all bulging eyes and vein-popping war cries.

Of course there are no bodies, no wreckage. Everybody still has their head,** and everybody gets a medal.

From my office window I can see my coworkers come and go. People make up their hours, carry in their excuses. The trick, I think, is never saying anything, and always acting normal.

We have a meeting about our office space. Everyone crowds around a floor plan, pointing at things. We are getting many more managers, and they all want the offices with windows (they also want to be all in a row, so they can “talk to each other”), which means the rest of us will be moving into the basement.

I already have a basement office at home. C started it for me. It has a folding table and an exposed ceiling. Think: wires. One of my nieces wanders into it looking for the Wi-fi password. “Whoa, this office is sketchy,” she says. I try to clean it up, put up a string of fairy lights over the cork board.

I read a book about Internet shaming. I read an article about a con man (which reminds me of a podcast about a con man). I read an essay about low-wage work. All of these things are about disposable people.

What does it mean to be a citizen? What is the animating idea for a social democracy? Who called this meeting anyway, and what’s all this about the common good and a just society? Do you have any meaningful say in the forces that govern your life?

Mostly I just try to move forward, which is not the same as progress. Some days are not for seeing. Some days are like a scar across the back of your hand, and everything is about not thinking, not remembering, not providing context. The news is exhausting. This is what what it must be like to live in Russia, I guess. The light at the end of the hall is neon in dark pink and it reads, LEAVE THIS ALONE. People fantasize about time travel or invisibility but selective forgetting is really much the same thing.

Please have a good week. Every day there’s more light in the morning.


Draw things, paint things, write things, make things.

** Back in 2007 I wrote a little essay about headless soldiers. It ended up in a magazine called Filling Station. I’m pasting it below. Some of the tech references already seem dated!

Roman Soldiers

These days, when a graphic designer is desperate or uninterested or simply has no budget, this is what ‘research’ comes down to: typing words into Google’s image-search engine. On this occasion––for a poster announcing some stupefying guest lecture on the fall of the Roman Republic––I tried the words “Roman Soldiers” (please Google, do not filter my results). The Google entity responded with its usual brutal dragnet (the information highwayman, hijacking whatever, whoever, making one for something shiny), and many Roman soliders duly appeared, but the only thumbnail which immediately jumped out as a prize came by way of Wikipedia (another mechanized golem, throwing around handfuls of received information like so much sand) and an ad for toy soldiers that I recognized immediately because it seemed to run on the back cover of every comic book I ever touched as a kid.

ONLY $2.25
Fight again the battles of the old Roman Civil War — Roman against Roman! Or mount your own attack against a town or city. Every piece of molded plastic — each on its own base. Two complete armies, one in blue, one in yellow! Your satisfaction guaranteed or full refund.
Here is what you get:
4 Generals — Mounted
24 Cavalrymen — with Spears & Armour
4 Cavalrymen with banners
16 Spearmen with Shields
16 Archers with bows
16 Slingers
4 Chariots with drivers
4 Working Catapults
16 pieces of ammuntion (harmless) for catapult
24 Foot soldiers with broadswords and shields
4 Buglers

The full-page ad was done in primaries plus black, with an electric emphasis on red type over blocks of yellow. Dominating everything is the illustration, showing the moment of impact between two Roman armies as they smash into each other.

For my little-kid brain, that ad was like crack. The illustration is frenetically alive with energy, the entire scene seething with brutality and viciousness: soldiers storm ladders with shields held high against the murderous rocks hurled down at them, siege towers strain forward, charioteers careen madly right into the thick of battle, archers strain at their bows even as arrows poison the sky, foot soldiers slash and stab away. The soldier closest to the foreground, in particular, sets the tone for the promised experience––his sword raised in defiance, his howling face nearly insane with rage. This was something more than two war machines merely wound up and pointed at each other; this was some demented, free-for-all bloodlust of the highest order.

But I never did send away for those soldiers. And I can’t tell you why. Then, as now, I really had no budget for that kind of extravagance (also, I probably understood that my mom, the person who’d have to do all the heavy lifting in any mail-order scheme, would have advised me, in her disappointed way, that the product was most likely ‘crap’). Back then, my thoughts and ambitions often got lost between the spaces of my own imagination. Besides, how realistic was this illustration anyway? My dad had a whole bookcase full of war books (he’d sign up for some historical series and then never pay the bill; as a result, all of our wars ended abruptly in mid-conflict). The pictures found in those volumes were real enough. The Roman soldiers from my ad were too perfect––the lines of their hard anatomy too implacably clean, the hues of their armour too fiercely burned in. Where were the dead? Where were the wounded? Even better, where were the hacked-off arms, or the headless torso’s stumbling around the battlefield, spouting fountains of blood?

I soon got my answer. It was Christmas. I was maybe six or seven years old. My older brother was two grades ahead. Improbably, we got each other’s names in the Sunday School draw. And what did he buy me? A bag of 100 toy soldiers, plastic Americans from World War Two. I was surprised. Part of that surprise was down to the fact that I didn’t have anything to give him. Again, I have no idea why. But I did feel bad about it.

I felt worse when my brother stole back my bag of soldiers and bit all their heads off. Every rifleman, grenade thrower, bazooka team… headless. He also removed a few arms and legs, just for good measure. Also, after being so abused in the process, most of my soldiers no longer stood up very well. You kind of had to lean them against things. And while my twisted, prostrate, headless soldiers were not so much fun to play with, they did look very real.

sky, sometimes falling


sky, sometimes falling; mixed media on paper

I made this painting last weekend, on a vintage map (which you can still see aspects of, in the background, most clearly at left). This morning I digitized it to see how it would translate onto various objects, such as an art print


a carry-all pouch


a notebook


a phone case


and others. There are times when art almost works better as merchandise. This particular painting was created very wet, and the effect, while still filled with detail, is very rough and ready, but the merchandising process transforms that, flattening and cleaning, applying a kind of gloss. And reproductions are completely valid, in their way.

Onward and upward. Happy Wednesday.

cigar-tin stories number eighty three / / a Friday, in several parts

A Friday morning. It’s the end (finally, Jesus, the end) of Oona’s March break so I don’t have to make any breakfasts or lunches but my own. And that’s easy: coffee with cream. My brother-in-law is a believer in short periods of fasting so I’m trying it on; although I won’t make it to noon, I can probably last ’til 10, with more coffee and water along the way. Since starting this dieting business, I’ve lost nine pounds. I have until the end of April to lose twenty. I use my no-rushing, no-coercing, no-craziness morning time to write in my day planner. I am that person who is more or less organized because I constantly struggle and fail to be more or less organized. But soon I have to get going; Oona has a play date at a frenemy’s this afternoon which means her mom needs the car which means I need to go catch a bus. After a warm, hope-filled day Thursday, the weather this Friday morning is a rap across the knuckles, with a hectoring wind that cuts right through my light gloves. Several people at the bus stop are not wearing hats and some even have wet hair and I know I am getting old now because the sight of this makes me wince. On board the 502 Express downtown, things get eerily quiet; people are already working hard at avoiding eye contact. I listen to an Irish Times podcast about Russians being poisoned in Great Britain, then about the slurping volcano of buffoonery and sleaze in Washington D.C.; the musicality of the Irish accent somehow makes it all less deplorable. The walk from downtown to my office, especially the middle part going over the causeway, is loud and biting and wholly unpleasant. A guy in front of me, determined to try and smoke and have his coffee along the way, is experiencing the weather equivalent of being rolled into a wet rug and kicked by a gang of children.

A Friday working. I spend all day making minor, senseless corrections on a massive book that is murderous in its blunt length––all heavy, black-letter design and blustering irrelevance (I once had an American history professor who confessed that most military history is the intellectual equivalent of masturbating into the sink). The sheer volume of charts and graphs and things that have to be turned on their sides just to fit is brutal; I think I understand ideas around crashing ambition better than most but this is a bit obliterating in the futility department. By the end of the day I’m literally twitching with the sheer uselessness of the last eight hours.

A Friday evening. Friday evenings are hard. I’m tired. But if I can just get to the studio and fall into some work, things will usually proceed on their own simply by picking things up or taking them down.

I finish some cigar-tin stories –– here, here and here. I make a booklet about wolves (which I haven’t had time to scan or photograph––maybe next week). I remake a painting that has been asking me for something for quite some time. I finish a book art object about monsters.

I start a new painting, over a giant map, but there are some problems with working too wet, so it will need some going over. Also, I have this idea to re-fold it as a map again, incorporating those lines/folds as part of the image, and thereby transforming its nature as well (it could be treated just like a map, something to pin to a wall, or even frame). A more affordable, transportable art. I’ll probably write more about this next week as well.

Finally, I have to call it a day. On the way to catch the bus home I pass whole battalions of stumbly-legged blonde girls and pressed-together boys, all of them giving off the psychic energy of gophers, all half-drunk and carrying flats of beer, and then I remember that it’s St. Patrick’s Day this weekend, and I start thinking about drinking, and bars, and I have this weird errant thought about Winnipeg, where I used to live, in the long ago, for ten years in fact, and I wonder, is Winnipeg the Sammy Hagar of Canadian cities? Loud, wildly permed, all capped teeth and Mazatlan tan, largely ignored but standing directly in front of the speakers anyway?


I hope everyone survived their kids’ social calendars last week,

Draw things, paint things, write things, make things.

p.s. This is a version of my regular Tinyletter, which you can subscribe to here.

cigar-tin stories number eight one / / fat raccoon

I make a painting called The Fantastic Trees. In fact I make a few attempts with it, changing its personality completely, more than once, but ultimately I hang it and look at it carefully and like its overall effect. Then I don’t. This happens slowly, in stages, over weeks of seeing it out of the corner of my eye. Somehow it catches. And then one night I just take it down and remake it, without thinking about it at all.

Kill your darlings is a phrase often used in writing. One has to get away from the idea that anything is precious. Because it isn’t. It has a life and then that’s it. Great works––the kind you see in museums––have long lives, and the greatest seem almost immortal, while certain others survive incidentally, falling through time by accident or strange intention, and wake up astonished on the Antiques Road Show.

I do not change the title.

I listen to a podcast about dropshipping: that spurious scheme of getting rich from being a kind of internet straw man, when in fact the real money is in teaching or coaching this pipedream to others. Fantastical thinking always reminds me of the writing community, which most closely resembles a road crammed with French refugees in the summer of 1940: badly dressed, humping their frantic collections of treasure and junk across the psychic countryside, wailing and tramping along, motivated only by vague ideas of escape and destination, all the while wondering why this simplest of ambitions keeps getting dive-bombed so mercilessly. With writing, too, any real money––any long-term stable money that buys groceries and mortgages––lies in teaching. Even Zadie Smith––the Greta Garbo of modern publishing, so glamorous and well-advertised (is there a difference?) that she has to wear elegant headscarves to keep from exploding into a British glitter cloud of radioactive coolness––has to teach creative writing at NYU.

The diet continues. Today is Day 15. I’ve lost seven pounds. C has me using an app called myfitnesspal (which, unsurprisingly, doesn’t feel like my pal at all; a real pal would give me chips) that I mostly use to count calories. I finish one day at 1083 calories. The app does not like this one bit. The app says I need 2 000 calories a day. Or at the very least 1 200. The app will not record this day in my progress because it does not reward bad behaviour. And I thought I had been so good.

A raccoon comes to visit me on the back deck one night. He is so fat that I have to double-check his tail, looking for stripes; in fact he is easily a medium-sized dog. He does not care that I am there at all. Only after I start talking to him does he even look at me, and then only briefly do we make eye contact, one fatty to another.

March just goes on and on about itself, doesn’t it? I hope everyone has stopped listening.


Draw things, paint things, write things, make things.

p.s. This is a version of my every-Tuesday Tinyletter; you can subscribe here.